Forecast: 'Thor' Set to Repeat Against 'Best Man Holiday'
Due to some last-minute date changes, The Best Man Holiday is this weekend's only new nationwide release. At 2,024 locations, the comedy sequel should finish a strong second behind Thor: The Dark World, which will repeat in first place with around $35 million.

The Best Man Holiday wasn't always the only movie scheduled for November 15th—as of the beginning of October, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Book Thief were also slated for nationwide release this weekend. Around that time, distributor 20th Century Fox decided that The Book Thief was better suited for a platform release beginning November 8th. Meanwhile, rumors began to circulate that director Martin Scorsese wouldn't have The Wolf of Wall Street finished in time for a mid-November release.

Paramount waited until the end of October to officially push Wolf back to Christmas Day. At this point, a smaller November title (Oldboy, Homefront, Delivery Man, etc.) could theoretically have moved up to the 15th; any possible advantage gained by such a move would likely be negated by the shortened marketing window and the fact that the movie would now be sandwiched between guaranteed blockbusters Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Ultimately, The Best Man Holiday wound up with exclusive rights to the November 15th date.

The original Best Man opened back in 1999—over 14 years ago—and was only a modest hit at the time. The movie debuted to $9 million at 1,346 theaters, and went on to earn $34.1 million total (that's $54 million adjusted for inflation). Since then, though, the movie has reportedly played well on home video and TV, and cast members like Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, and Morris Chestnut have seen their stars rise. As a result, Universal eventually determined that a modestly-budgeted follow-up made financial sense.

Universal's marketing campaign for The Best Man Holiday emphasizes that the movie functions as a reunion, both for the characters and for the actors, and also clearly positions it as an upbeat romantic comedy consistent with the Best Man brand. These themes align nicely with the holiday season, which is a time to get together with old friends and strengthen relationships. The one downside is that the campaign is unlikely to win any converts: previews are heavy on jokes and references that don't mean much to those unfamiliar with the original movie.

Universal is reporting that interest is strongest among female African Americans, which is consistent with other relationship comedies starring largely African-American casts. The studio is expecting high-teen-millions, which would be a solid start. However, online ticket seller Fandango is reporting that The Best Man Holiday is outselling Think Like a Man through the same point. Also an ensemble African-American romantic comedy, that movie surprised many when it opened to $33.6 million last April. Likewise, it would be surprising if The Best Man Holiday made it over $30 million this weekend—a debut in the mid-$20 million range seems reasonable.

In limited release, Paramount is opening Alexander Payne's Nebraska at four locations. The movie is in black-and-white and lacks a major movie star like George Clooney, so it doesn't have nearly the same appeal as Payne's The Descendants ($82.6 million). Still, it's receiving strong reviews and some awards buzz, and should do very solid business this weekend (at least $40,000 per theater).

Finally, Dallas Buyers Club expands to 184 theaters (from 35) and will earn over $1 million.

Forecast (Nov. 15-17)

1. Thor: The Dark World - $34 million (-60%)

2. The Best Man Holiday - $24 million

3. Last Vegas - $9.1 million (-17%)

Bar for Success

For the modestly-budget The Best Man Holiday, an opening over $15 million should be considered a win.

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